A quick overview of the route
Named after the nearby Amatola Mountains, the Amathole Route stretches from Hogsback in the north to the towns of Cathcart, Nqgamakwe, Bedford, Seymour, Elliotdale, and Dutywa to the Great Fish River in the south and the Dwesa/Cwebe Nature Reserve in the east. The grass-covered rolling hills boast a temperate climate, pristine estuaries and malaria-free game reserves.Amathole, which means 'the calves of the Drakensberg' in Xhosa, is one of the seven districts of the Eastern Cape Province and is still an area that reflects a rural lifestyle where the Xhosa communities continue to take their Nguni cattle out onto the Amathole foothills. The Amathole region is filled with friendly people who exude the values of Ubuntu (an African ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people's allegiances and relations with each other – equality, brotherhood and sharing). The area is rich in history and culture as reflected in street and town names. People are very hospital and musical, and authentic cultural activities function alongside western culture. Many different groups such as English, German, Dutch, Xhosa, San and Fingo have united to form a melting pot of cultures.
REASONS TO VISIT The Amatola Mountains present the visitor with artistically wind-carved rock formations and other shapes such as bell rocks. Snow occurs around 190 kilometres from Cintsa in the winter time due to the altitude in the mountainous areas. Mist forests have also formed as a result of increased moisture in the higher regions.
There are a variety of Game Reserves and game parks, with abundant birdlife found in the Doubledrift Game Reserve, Dwesa Cwebe Game Reserve, Mpofu Game Reserve and Fort Fordyce Nature Reserve. It is believed that there are more bird species in the Amathole region than in the entire United States. It also happens to be a very popular fly fishing destination.
Many of the little towns are named after places in Germany and Britain as a result of the strong influence the settlers had in this area. Names like Stutterheim, Hamburg, Cathcart and Adelaide are all named after similar towns in the UK and Europe.
The roads lead through the Amatola Mountains on a spectacular pass and at the summit reaches a popular resort area, Hogsback. The village overlooks the rivers and fertile plains of the Tyume Valley in a region dominated by three ridges said to resemble the bristles on a hog's back. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the famous Lord of the Rings trilogy, was born in the Eastern Cape, and the Hogsback forests, mountains and waterfalls are said to be where he found his inspiration to create his fantasy universe, Middle Earth.
Hogsback: Hogsback was settled by European farmers after the frontier wars had ended, and there are indigenous forests on the escarpment and a hotel was built for travellers. The farmers introduced apples, berry fruits and nuts to the area. There are many forest walks and drives to view sites, large trees and waterfalls. Hogsback village has a number of restaurants and activities. From here, the road moves into excellent cattle country with fertile grasslands to the town of Cathcart. Farm holidays, country cuisine, trout fishing, hiking, riding and bird-watching are among the attractions of the town that lies at the foot of the picturesque Windvogelberg.
Seymour: Seymour began as a military stronghold called Elands Post. Due to the lack of industry or agriculture in the area, the town is no longer active but is still interesting to visit. The Kat River Dam provides a recreational area and the hotel dates from an 1852 Officer’s Mess.The culture and heritage of this area is rich in struggle history as it the district is the birthplace of Steve Biko.
Ciskei: When the Ciskei became independent of South Africa, this town was built as its centre with expensive buildings like a hotel, stadium, administrative buildings and an international airport. The Ciskei became an independent Bantustan in December 1981 with Lennox Sebe as president. The establishment of the new state was met with resistance and in 1990, a coup ousted Sebe and replaced him with the Brigadier Oupa Gqozo. He moved to reintegrate the Ciskei with South Africa.
King Williams Town: A memorial to the great Xhosa chief, Sandili is found behind the Mount Kemp Sore just outside King Williams Town. Buried here after his death in a battle of the Ninth Frontier War, he was chief of the Ngqika section of the Xhosa tribe. Apparently to keep the King’s volatile spirit in the ground, British soldiers killed in the same battle was buried on either side of the King.
Komga: Komga, a European version of the word 'Gama' (red clay), is an agricultural and railway centre with a friendly and hospitable people. The area around Komga is bliss for eco-tourists and bird lovers as it boasts a range of different bird species. Following the N2 to the Buffalo River valley brings the industrial centre of Zwelitsha (new era) into view and further on to Berlin, founded by disbanded German soldiers who settled there. For years, Berlin was just another small village but the recent economic regeneration of the East London area has incorporated it into the municipality as an industrial centre.
Alice: Founded as a mission station in November 1824 and named Lovedale by Dr John Love of the Glasglow Missionary Society, it was abandoned during the Frontier Wars. Ten years later it was rebuilt and the Lovedale school as started. Abandoned again in another round of war in the 1840s, the town continued to grow in importance as a centre of education.
Fort Hare was built by the military on the east bank of the Tyumi River and in 1847 when the missionaries returned, the educational focus came to the fore. Fort Hare University was opened in 1916. The Lovedale Hospital trains nurses and midwives and the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa trains 100 theological students every year. The Lovedale press produces mainly educational books and is run by the Lovedale Mission of the Church of Scotland. At Lovedale Farm, dairy herds are kept.
The area around Alice was frequently involved in the skirmishes of the frontier wars. The military forts in the mountains to the north or the valley of the Great Fish River make for an interesting passage through history. The Tyumi River valley was under the control of the Xhosa chief, Ngqika and the road leads through British settlements, Auckland, Woburn and Juanasberg which were wiped out on Christmas day in 1850.
Stutterheim: Stutterheim has forested slopes with many recreational opportunities from hikes to river swimming, picnic spots and other scenic atractions. Missionaries from the Berlin Society settled here first and were later followed by disbanded German soldiers. The town was founded in 1957 and named after the commander of the German Legion, Major-General von Stutterheim. There are still ruined buildings to be seen in the town centre. The town is now the centre of a timber industry with sawmills producing various building materials. As the centre of the Eastern Cape Grassveld Region, it has the Dohne Agricultural Research Institute, which produces research on sheep and cattle.
Amathole Beyond Limits
Recognising the low level of socio-economic well-being of the majority of the communities residing in the district, ADM has placed a strong focus on the facilitation and support of economic development, especially through its Economic Development Agency, ASPIRE. The key sectors where efforts to enhance competitive advantages and to seek new sectors for competitive positioning include:
- The industrial (manufacturing) sector (export focus)
- Sectors based on high-value or specialized skills (technology and innovation, arts and the development of niche market products etc.